Ben Stelter, the six-year-old Edmonton Oilers fan who captured the hearts of not only the team, but all Edmontonians, has died.
“The world lost the most special boy and an absolute hero last night,” his dad Mike Stelter said in a statement posted to Twitter on Tuesday.
“Ben, you were the best son we could ever hope for and you were my best bud ever.
“Your sisters were so lucky to have you as such a sweet brother. You fought so long and hard and beat so many odds.”
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When he was four, Ben was diagnosed with glioblastoma — an aggressive type of brain cancer. He underwent surgery to remove the tumour, as well as several rounds of chemotherapy and dozens of radiation sessions.
Last December, the tumour returned and Ben began more rounds of radiation treatments over the winter.
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A huge Oilers fan, Ben’s dream was to meet Connor McDavid. Dressed in an Oilers jersey and McDavid socks, that dream came true in March as Ben skated to centre ice with his hero for the anthems.
Ben turned six this past May, when the Oilers were in the throes of Stanley Cup playoff season.
The Oilers pledged before the start of the 2021-22 season they would play La Bamba after every win at Rogers Place in honour of long-time locker room assistant Joey Moss.
Ben became known for telling the team to “Play La Bamba, baby!” and became a household name in Edmonton and beyond.
Earlier this year, Stelter recorded a video ahead of a regular season Battle of Alberta game, saying: “Hope you guys win the game. Let’s get Tkachuk!”
It caught the eye of former Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk during the playoffs, leading him to share a message of his own in support of the young boy.
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The Oilers also dedicated a 50/50 in his name, with proceeds supporting the Alberta Cancer Foundation and the Kids with Cancer Society.
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“You truly changed the world and did so much good in your short time here. Mom and I are so proud of you,” Stelter said.
“You had a bigger heart than anyone we’ve ever met.
“Our hearts are left with a Ben-sized hole in them and life will never be the same without you. We are absolutely crushed.
“We love you our sweet Benny boy.”
Connor McDavid posted a tribute to Ben on his Instagram, saying, “You touched everyone’s hearts and were such an inspiration to us all.
“Lucky to be your friend.”
The Edmonton Oilers said the club was “mourning the passing of our dear friend, number one fan, good luck charm and inspiration, Ben Stelter.”
“Ben came into all of our lives at a time when we needed some hope and inspiration,” said a statement from OEG.
“Although small in stature, Ben’s impact on our team and community were massive.
“At a time when he was going through his own struggles with his illness, he and his family gave us their time and their friendship, allowing to get to know Ben and be touched by his charm, his courage and his infectious giggle. He was such a huge part of what made last season so special to all of us and forever more we will ‘Play La Bamba’ in his memory.”
The team expressed its condolences to the Stelter family, thanking them for sharing their son with the team and with Edmonton.
“You will forever be a part of the Oilers family. Rest in peace, Ben.”
The Oilers posted about Ben’s death on Twitter, where condolences from several other NHL teams began to pour in.
“Our deepest condolences go out to Ben’s family and friends. Ben was an incredible source of inspiration to everyone who knew him and his story, epitomizing courage, kindness, and bravery,” said the Calgary Flames.
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